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Research Suggests Individuals with Strong Buddhist Beliefs Are More Likely to Be Blood Donors


A recent study has indicated that individuals with strong Buddhist beliefs are more likely to be blood donors. The research, conducted in China and published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, suggests that this is due to higher levels of moral attentiveness among Buddhist practitioners.

Cited in a recent article on the psychology and neuroscience news website PsyPost, the research comes as blood donation centers around the world are struggling to refill depleted supplies. In the United States, the Red Cross has experienced a 10 per cent decline in overall blood donations, and Red Cross supplies of type O-positive blood, type O-negative blood, and platelets have reached critical levels. Blood donations are vitally important because they are used in transfusions for surgeries, accident victims, childbirth, cancer patients, and more.

The study, titled “How Buddhist Beliefs Relate to Blood Donation Intention: The Role of Moral Attentiveness and Self-Monitoring,” was conducted by Liangyong Chen, Sai Zhang, Yufeng Zhou, and Mo Xiao, with the help of 508 survey participants, who answered questions around moral attentiveness, self-monitoring, and their intention to donate blood. 

Researcher Liangyong Chen suggested that the connection between respondents with a strong willingness to donate blood and strong Buddhist beliefs could be traced to Buddhism’s strong focus on morality. Many Buddhist traditions teach that moral discipline provides an essential foundation for practitioners hoping to attain enlightenment. The practice of dana (Skt. generosity) is one of the six perfections that students are encouraged to practice.

The researchers noted that practicing Buddhism did not automatically increase a person’s moral attentiveness. According to the study, Buddhist practitioners who were high in self-monitoring in addition to being high in moral attentiveness were the most likely to exhibit an intention to donate blood.

Describing their findings, the authors of the study stated:

This research provides a nuanced explanation of the manner in which Buddhist beliefs are associated with blood donation intention. Blood donation recruitment campaigns can incorporate instrumental elements of Buddhist teachings, such as the pursuit of moral perfection, the cultivation of the virtues of unselfishness, benevolence and understanding, and the laws of Karma. Meanwhile, mindfulness as a core practice in Buddhism can be utilized to improve moral attentiveness and self-monitoring, thereby promoting blood donation intention.

(Journal of Applied Social Psychology)

The study has several interesting implications in terms of the marketing and recruitment that take place prior to blood drives. For example, a blood drive organizer might try to encourage individuals in Buddhist communities to participate by referring to Buddhist teachings around generosity, karma, and merit transference.

Future studies will likely consider other mental habits that show a correlation with self-monitoring and moral attentiveness. Topics of research might include mindfulness, culture, and having a strong focus on collectivist ideologies.

The results of the study are reflected in this passage from the Medicine Master Sutra:

They will not delight in worldly pleasures, but will rejoice in giving and praise others to give.  They will not begrudge giving whatever they have. Gradually, to those who come to beg, they will be able to give away their own head, eyes, hands, feet, and even their entire body, to say nothing of their money and property!

(City of Ten Thousand Buddhas)

Reading passages such as this could potentially nurture moral attentiveness in practitioners, which the researchers define as recognizing and considering morality in day-to-day decisions. In other words, people who ponder moral questions on a regular basis are more likely to engage in moral actions. Similarly, the study of Buddhism raises many moral questions, so it is hardly surprising that strong Buddhist beliefs show an indirect correlation with moral attentiveness, for example: “I often reflect on the moral aspects of my decisions/behavior.”

See more

People with stronger Buddhist beliefs are more likely to donate blood due to greater sensitivity to morality (PsyPost)
Red Cross National Blood Shortage Crisis (American Red Cross)
Medicine Master Sutra (City of Ten Thousand Buddhas)
How Buddhist beliefs relate to blood donation intention: The role of moral attentiveness and self-monitoring (Journal of Applied Social Psychology)
1.5 million blood units to be mobilised in 2022 (VietnamPlus)

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